Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee outlined plans to support “strong families” on Monday during his State of the State address, including $100 million in grants to help pregnant mothers through community-based pro-life organizations.
Speaking at the state Capitol, Lee said helping families is one of his top priorities for the coming year, especially now that Tennessee protects unborn babies by banning abortions, according to the Associated Press.
“America is rooted in a commitment to human dignity,” the pro-life Republican governor said. “There was a significant shift in this country last year when it comes to protecting the lives of the unborn. We now all have an opportunity and a moral obligation to support strong Tennessee families.”
Among other things, Lee said he wants to create a $100 million grant program for pregnancy resource centers to improve access to healthcare, information and material support for mothers and babies.
“Last year, Tennessee’s budget funded ultrasound machines at crisis pregnancy clinics across the state,” the governor said. “This year, I’m proposing a $100 million grant program to partner with nonprofits that serve mothers, fathers and families during a crisis pregnancy.”
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The governor also proposed expanding the state Medicaid program, TennCare Services, for pregnant and parenting mothers and children, as well as paid parental leave for state employees. Lee said his administration also plans to urge the federal government to allow diapers to be covered under Medicaid, the AP report continues.
“If approved, Tennessee will be the first Medicaid program in the nation to implement this kind of support. That’s pro-life. That’s pro-family,” Lee said.
The governor’s plans include helping vulnerable born children, too, by expanding services for children in foster care and children with special needs.
In the midst of Lee’s remarks about protecting unborn babies, a group of pro-abortion protesters began shouting loudly from the gallery and briefly disrupted his speech, the Nashville Tennessean reports.
The governor responded by telling the protesters: “Civility is not weakness, by the way. It is a strength.” His remarks received a huge applause from lawmakers that drowned out the pro-abortion activists.
“Pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn,” Lee continued. “This is not a matter of politics. This is about human dignity.”
Tennessee is one of 14 states that protects unborn babies by banning abortions, and more states are trying to do the same through legislation and court battles. These states also are working to expand resources for pregnant and parenting mothers, including increasing funding for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes, expanding Medicaid and workplace accommodations for pregnant and parenting employees, and creating tax credits and other measures that recognize unborn babies as valuable individuals.